November 23, 2017

Thoughts from a Female Sailor at the Laser Master Worlds

Intro and Comments by Pam
We received an email from a sailor we met through the blog and then at the Worlds in France and again in Split, and she wanted to share her thoughts. The email made Doug a bit emotional because he's seen me deal with some of the same issues when I've sailed with the local Laser sailors. Not all of them, but enough that it isn't fun and it brings out a protective side of Doug where he drops the gloves and says 'it's on!,' and proceeds to school the offending party on just how not fun he can make sailing for them. Not the most mature response ... so I am adding my comments below instead of Doug.

by Ute
Some thoughts from a female sailor of the last third of the fleet...

What I describe below sounds very negative and this clearly is not my intention. First of all I want to emphasize that I enjoy going to big regattas, sailing with nice sailors from all over the world, and making friends. So the negative I describe, fortunately, is only a small part of what happens during regattas.

Sailing in the last third of the fleet is a completely different experience of racing than what Doug usually describes. And being a woman often increases the differences experienced. [I've often felt that sailing in the middle to back of the fleet is the most frustrating.]

I think, and I know that many women agree, that we sail against different "groups" of co-sailors: [Ain't that the truth.]

Other women: usually very competitive and at the same time nice, decent, knowing the Racing Rules of Sailing, and sailing accordingly. [So very civilized and fun.]

Sailors I call "men": fortunately the vast majority of the fleet, just as the "women" nice, decent sailors, competitive, knowing the Racing Rules, and sailing accordingly. When racing, they do not make a distinction as to whether they compete against a male or a female sailor. [Always such a pleasure to sail with them.]

Sailors I call "macho men": they act differently when facing a competitive situation with a female sailor in contrast to a male sailor. Whether you are in front or way back doesn’t matter. Just being in the situation where a woman sails as good (or bad) as this "macho man" makes him act unreasonably and forget the rules he usually knows more or less well. This group of sailors is often hard - or impossible - to distinguish from the following group, the

"stupid sailors": surprisingly many sailors that go to the World Championships fall into this group and are typically found in the second half of the fleet. These are sailors who don’t even know the very basics of the Racing Rules. They just think about their fastest and easiest way to the finish line. In 2014 in Hyères, and also this year in Split, I filed protests that I easily won. This year the sailor I protested really thought that - being the windward boat on the same tack - he could bear away and not give me my right of way just because he had a bad tack and could not build up speed afterwards. 'What could I do? If I had gone higher, I would have not been able to move upwind….' (His statement to the jury.) And this is just one example of many. Doug, I am perfectly sure that you do not have the pleasure of experiencing this kind of situation at the top of the fleet. It’s amazing to watch the jury more or less successfully trying to suppress too obvious smiles… [It is indeed a challenge to distinguish between the overly aggressive and the challenged sailor. I can identify with the challenged one because I've been there, sometimes still am, but I really dislike the overly aggressive one.]

Why is it that so many sailors just stop thinking after they get what they want. Firstly, this holds true at the starting line. With 60 to 70 sailors in each fleet and three to four fleets in one racing area, I think it would be nice that you don’t linger on the starting line. Everybody tries to get a line sight or to determine which end is favored. So why don’t we all leave the line after we have gotten what we want? And, secondly, why can’t the sailors who have completed the last race of the day go a little bit further upwind to not completely block the air for those sailors still in the race. In the last race of my fleet in Split, the boat end was favored. I had tacked accordingly on the starboard lay line - and finished about 3/5 towards the pin-end, just because of those sailors who blocked the wind and created wake after finishing and directly heading home to the harbor. [Being on the finish line boat, I am always amazed at how many sailors at the front of the fleet turn and sail right into those finishing. I've seen the finish line boat repeatedly holler at them to go around and it always catches them by surprise and seems to have really never crossed their minds because they are so tired. Only the very, very top sailors seem to have the muscle memory to turn the opposite direction from home to avoid the finishing fleet. Brett Beyer comes to mind. He never turns into or interferes with the finishing fleet.]

Why is it that so many sailors just push their way through to get in the water in the morning or back on land after the races? In Split we had only four small ramps. So, coming back from the races was always a challenge. And you could count on the fact that, when several sailors came in at the same time and had worked out in what order to use the ramp, another sailor would aggressively come in, passing everybody else and being on land and dry within a flicker of an eye. This was, frustratingly, the case the one day the Bora came in at the end of the racing day. The harbor was packed with boats, what was described as the first motor boat blockade ever was set up so that not all boats jammed the ramps at once, boats where ramming each other or capsizing, one woman basically hung in the mooring lines of big boats secured in the harbor. And some young, strong standard sailors just passed them…. [Watching this dynamic of getting in and out is truly fascinating. So many different personalities at play. What I have observed is that the more people you know, the more considerate they are or the more willing they are to apologize and tell you why they need to jump in front. Doug spent more time patiently waiting than I would have, mainly because he observed a lot of inexperience and he didn't want to get tangled up and tipped by one of them but a few times someone he knew saw him waiting and knew he had broken ribs and would holler at him to go ahead of them.] 

If everybody thought a little bit ahead, if people knew the Racing Rules better (my American husband insisted that I learn the Rules when I started competitive sailing and we still learn by discussing different situations after regattas and checking carefully word by word what the Rules say), if people talked more to each other on the water, the races would be so much nicer! [I couldn't agree more. The longer you attend these things, the more you learn and the more people you get to know. Doug has introduced me to many a person that he has met on the water or in the protest room in less than desirable circumstances and went on to become good friends with them. Another thing I find fascinating and encouraging.] 

Some thoughts recently shared by Lyndall Patterson, multiple Laser World Champion, and top female sailor in the Radial Grand Master fleet in Split...

"I have found over the years a lot of respect and camaraderie amongst most sailors. I do find as a female sailor that the diamond is a disadvantage in a fleet especially in the latter part of a race as basically many competitors will choose to be ahead of a diamond if they can be. I have become aware of this and best way is to be clear ahead if possible and certainly not take it personally. Leave it on water and share support on land."

November 18, 2017

LP At It Again?

by Pam
What on earth is end game of Laser Performance "LP"?  By now, most have heard about LP beginning its hostile takeover of the International Sunfish Class Association (ISCA). Finally, it's the Laser sailors' turn to watch the fight from the sidelines. I know, I know, many have drawn the conclusion that the ILCA is next, but Bruce Kirby may still be holding LP at bay.

We all knew about the Kirby v. LP case. Some were partial to Kirby's side (ImproperCourse), some were partial to ILCA's side (ProperCourse), but very few understood or really got behind LP's point of view.  Some perceived the ILCA to be siding with LP but to me it looked more like the ILCA was playing a chess game with LP, and the ILCA had essentially decided to sacrifice a pawn (Kirby) in hopes of staying in play a little longer.  I thought it was the wrong move but I completely understood the logic of the move.  

When the decision on the court case was handed down back in December 2016, most decided Kirby had lost and stopped paying attention. There were rumors of negotiations taking place behind the scenes and that a decent settlement for all (except Kirby and Global Sailing "GS") was likely and the Laser sailing game would go on as usual. The ISCA has apparently been having those same types of negotiations behind the scenes and look where they are now. Fortunately, for the Laser sailors, Bruce Kirby always had the best interests of the sailors in mind (yes, I believe, even when he added the ILCA to the lawsuit). 

What most don't realize is that GS and Kirby did not just roll over and play dead when the decision was handed down in December 2016. In fact, the case is still pending, with the Judge issuing a decision in June 2017 saying that he made a mistake:

... The Court dismissed Counts I through IV despite the fact that defendants themselves did not seek dismissal of these particular counts on standing grounds (likely because defendants knew that the BRUCE KIRBY® trademark had not been sold to GSL). In view that defendants did not seek dismissal of Counts I through IV on standing grounds, I do not think it was incumbent on plaintiffs to have anticipated the Court's mistake by making a fuller record of precisely what intellectual property rights had been sold rather than licensed to GSL. Because of the Court's own mistaken understanding on this issue, I think it is appropriate to correct the error ...

In that same decision the Judge said it was too late for GS to amend its counterclaims against LP in the pending case so GS filed a new lawsuit against Rastegar in July 2017 and that case was then joined with the Kirby case in October 2017:

As we have seen before, this might buy the Laser sailors a few years before LP can fully swallow up the ILCA and, in the meantime, we get to watch the ISCA class play its chess game with LP and maybe learn a few things along the way.  

And, let's not forget that Kirby was particularly offended when he discovered that LP was trying to obtain the LASER trademark for the purposes of running regattas and he initiated cancellation proceedings of the LASER service mark (for regattas) as well as the LASER trademark (for sailboats). Unfortunately, he was forced to withdraw the cancellation proceedings for the sailboat mark since LP produced an old document stating that Kirby had agreed to never contest the LASER trademark (for sailboats). However, the US Trademark Office ruled that the agreement did not apply to the LASER service mark (for regattas) and allowed the proceeding to continue. That proceeding was stayed pending the outcome of the civil lawsuit but now appears to be moving again (but might get stayed again). In the meantime, LP filed for a new service mark for regattas on the starburst logo, which registered in July 2017.

It is curious to me that the rights to the LASER trademark (for sailboats) are held by Karaya (Jersey) Limited but the rights to the starburst logo trademark (for sailboats) are held by Velum Limited. Seems like that would somehow give rise to a legal argument about two different entities holding a trademark for the same product. I thought a trademark was supposed to help a company identify and distinguish its goods (and their quality) from the products of others.  I certainly do not know if a Laser sailboat is the product of Karaya, Velum, LP or the ILCA. I more closely identify the Laser sailboat as being manufactured by LP (in some jurisdictions) to the global standards of the ILCA and certainly not to the standards of Karaya or Velum (or any of the other Rastegar shell companies).

But, really I digress ... even though Doug and I both sold our Sunfish earlier this year, the main purpose of this post was to offer some information to the ISCA since they intend to play their chess game a little differently than the ILCA: 
  1. Take a look at the Kirby cancellation proceedings of the LASER trademark. Many of the assignment documents included both the Sunfish and the Laser.
  2. Take a look at an old post about the possibility of the SUNFISH and  LASER trademark being up for grabs.
  3. Talk to an attorney about "collective trademarks" and whether the Sunfish class has a rightful and priority claim to the Sunfish marks.  
  4. Take a look at the specimen that Velum filed to renew their registration and to evidence their ongoing use of the SUNFISH service mark for running regattas.  They did the same thing with the LASER service mark in the Kirby cancellation proceeding and then said that the ILCA was a licensee. How hosed up is that?  So the ISCA runs the regatta (allegedly, as a licensee) and that provides evidence for Velum's use of the service mark and then Velum can terminate the alleged license and then gets to keep the service mark ... when it has never run a regatta?  

All of this might be a dead end but it might give your attorneys something to think about.  The ISCA is different from the ILCA in that AMF Incorporated filed for the SUNFISH service mark for running regattas back in 1972 with a first use date of 1959 and Velum subsequently acquired those rights. Sadly, I think it was LP's review of the trademark portfolio that might have inspired and motivated them to take over running of the regattas. But, surely it could be argued that they abandoned the service mark for running regattas because they have not done so for quite some time (like ever according to ISCA's recent writing). Whatever you do, good luck!  We are all watching and rooting for ISCA!

Disclamer:  All of this is personal opinion and speculation from a 20 year patent paralegal who is completely unqualified in trademarks but just might have a slight advantage in knowing where to look for some information.

November 07, 2017

Spring Racing Down Under

Lasers in Sydney, with historical 18' skiffs in the background.

By Doug
Being an honorary member of the best Laser club in the world has its privileges. Like getting reports of the events that Pam and I are unable to attend. Last weekend, they had 54 Lasers in a race against another local club. Brett Beyer was on hand coaching and he graciously shared his comments for the standards and radials starts.

Finn Alexander, Aussie Youth Sailor of the Year, wins the pin.
It’s bad enough to miss being in Sydney when you see the awesome race program that they have, and it’s worse to miss out on Brett’s coaching. There will be another chance in April at two clinics he’ll be giving in Mexico at the International Sailing Academy.

November 04, 2017

Kerry Waraker - Winning the 2017 Legend Master Worlds

I used to belong to Hudson Yacht Club west of Montreal. To keep it fair, their annual club championship was sailed in a different type of keelboat and I asked if they'd consider sailing it in Lasers. A fellow told me no because "Lasers aren't meant to be sailed by people over 35." Boy, was he wrong!

At the Laser Master Worlds, we have a category called Legends for sailors over 75. I love this because it shows how long we can compete if we stay in shape and take care of ourselves. The current Legend World Champion is Kerry Waraker from Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. Here's how it's  done.

Christy Usher/Christine Robin Photography  

By Kerry Waraker
Preparation for the World Laser Masters at Split 2017

At the presentation ceremony at the Split Laser Masters Worlds, Doug asked if I would write about my preparation for the Worlds and later he added a few more topics of avoiding injury while sailing/training, mental approach, race strategy, and managing competitors.

Southern Hemisphere Laser Masters sailors are at a bit of a disadvantage when the Worlds are held in the August - September period in the Northern Hemisphere. Typically our summer sailing season ends around Easter time so there is about a 6 month period before the Worlds without much competitive sailing. In Australia we have a few Frostbite races and the South Pacific Laser Masters regatta (a 4 day regatta) about 8 weeks before the Worlds. This means we have to train through winter and try to adjust to make up for the lack of fleet racing to be fit and at our peak for the Worlds.

Looking at the wind statistics for Split for the last week of September over the last 4 years it was likely to be a light wind regatta and it seemed that getting 10 or more races in for second scoring drop was very unlikely. This put extra pressure on consistency. Another piece of information was from one of our local young sailors who had competed at Split a year earlier and he suggested that the water was choppy and not dissimilar to the chop on my home club race area. This could be to my advantage   

My 2016/17 club sailing performance had been disappointing and reflecting on that I determined that to get ready for the Worlds I needed to change a few things. 
  1. Improve my fitness and hiking
  2. Improve my boat handling
  3. Get my head out of the boat to more closely watch competitors and look for the wind on the water
  4. Improve my down wind speed
  5. Lose a bit of weight and get down to about 72  kg 
  6. Reread relevant sections of a few good sailing books
Coaches around the world have been stressing the importance of all the above items for years so nothing really new there. 

Fitness and Hiking

I started my fitness program about 4 month before the Worlds by cycling a couple of times a week and trying to get on the water 1 or 2 days a week. By the time of the Worlds I had increased my sailing to 3 or 4 times a week and spent 30 minutes a day on an exercise bike and did sit ups on non sailing days and when the sailing breeze was below full hiking strength. I changed from cycling to exercise bike about 8 weeks to eliminate the danger of a fall and injury while cycling. I find the exercise bike extremely boring but it had to be done

Boat Handling

Obviously with the sailing I was doing boat handling improved and also the improvement in my fitness contributed to improving my boat handling towards the end of tiring sailing session. My jibing has generally not been a problem for me but tacking and buoy roundings left room for plenty of improvement. Practicing and analysing what to do to improve manoeuvring paid off and some improvements were achieved. The boat handling skills of our young sailors is just amazing and watching them just makes me feel inadequate 

Head out of Boat

Looking at your competitor’s position and for favourable wind angles and pressure are important all around the course but more difficult on the upwind legs. More time in the boat and improved fitness has the outcome of not being concerned with boat speed and sail setup. Being fitter results in hiking properly and not worrying about it hurting so much while time in the boat improves your feel for how the boat is performing speed wise and enables you to quickly feel any reduced speed and make the necessary adjustment to sail settings. As result more time is available to look outside the boat at your competitors and the wind on the water

Downwind speed

My downwind speed in smooth water was OK but when we had waves and/or choppy conditions I was not as quick as a couple of my training partners. Interestingly they used different techniques. One sailed very much down the rhumb line with only small angles and minimal sheet adjustment while the other sailed wide angle and with plenty of sheet adjustment. Which technique was faster depended on wave conditions and wind strength. By the time of the Worlds I was almost as fast as both my training partners and had a good idea when to use which technique

Lose weight

I normally sail at about 76kg and as Split was predicted to be a light wind regatta shedding a few kg to about 72 kg seemed a good idea. I thought that I would probably have to watch my diet to achieve this reduction but as the exercise increased the weight came off without dieting and I arrived in Split at about 72 kg

Books and Mental Approach

Advanced Racing Tactics (Sturt Walker), Championship Sailing (Gary Dobson) and Wind Strategy (David Houghton & Fiona Campbell) are the books that I find helpful in getting my thoughts in place for a major regatta. Each time you read or reread relevant sections it helps the mental preparation. It gets you thinking about what you have to do on the race course. You also pick up on little issue that you hadn’t recognised previously which all helps to put the whole requirements for a successful regatta together. It is very easy to form a habit of just turning up to a regatta and just going through the motions without very much thought to what you are try to achieve. I think this is especially true as you get older and have done a lot of regattas. In my younger days I got very nervous before and in the first part of an important regatta but these days I am much more relaxed about it all but suspect at times I’m too relaxed and hence the reading helps to get you into the right frame of mind and thinking about what is required both on and off the water during the regatta

General comment on the Training Regime 

There is nothing better than to have at least equal and preferably better boat speed than your competitors. Better boats speed makes your race strategies and tactics look a lot better than they probably are although you still need to be reasonable proficient in these areas to do well in a high quality fleet. So given this thought I put a lot of effort into boat speed in my on water training. As Split was going to be a light wind regatta and my better results had generally come from stronger wind regattas I needed to spend time training in 4 to 8 knots wind conditions. The added requirement was to sail in heavier winds to get the hiking fitness needed in case of stronger winds in Split. The local winter winds characteristics allow me to do about half my training time in each of these conditions. By doing a lot of 2 boat sailing in the light conditions I arrived in Split feeling my light wind speed was good and this was confirmed in the practice race where I got to the first windward mark in first place and finish second.

Race Strategy

Starting and getting clear air is essential for a good result. In Split the starting line was fairly long with 62 starters and the pin end always seem to be favoured. I elected to start a third to half way down the from the start boat. The two reasons for this were that the pin end was very crowded and only a few boats come out of that position in good shape and advice from an Aussie sailor who sailed in the open Worlds was that with the wind in SW to W area the right seem to be the favoured. Starting closer to the boat allowed an easier passage to right by taking a few sterns if the start wasn’t so good. The advice about the right seemed be correct so I maintained this strategy for the whole regatta. My windward strategy was to be conservative in the first windward, not to be too far away from the leading group if possible, and try to be in the top 10 at the first mark and be a bit less conservative in the second windward if need be. This all fell apart in one race. In that race I had a good start and sailed on starboard with my mind in neutral waiting for a knock to tack back (which never came) and finished up overlaying the windward mark quite substantially. Talk about a senior’s moment?? I rounded the windward mark with only a few boats behind me but managed to get back to 15th which fortunately was my drop. 

Managing competitors

Looking through the list of entries in my category Peter Seidenberg was obviously one of my main competitors and in light conditions Steve Avery had gone well in Oman. I didn’t know a lot of the European entrants so they were a bit of an unknown. Also with the scoring method of taking the overall results from the combined GGMs and Legends fleet meant that all the GGMs were part of the equation and the more GGMs that you beat the better. After a few races it became obvious that Peter was the main threat so I tried to keep an eye on him preferably from in front of him

Avoiding injury

Doug asked me to comment on this topic but I’ve not had any serious problems with injuries over the years I have been sailing (most of my life). Probably the worst injury was during the preparation for Split where I got 2 very small tears in my left shoulder and it still isn’t better. It didn’t really worry me much while I was sailing. I think the tears were a result of doing push ups but not sure. Anyhow I stopped doing push ups. I guess I am lucky that over the years this has not been an issue for me. I know I’ll have to stop Laser sailing sometime but not sure when. Peter Seidenberg is nearly 2 years older than me so maybe he will be my guide on this. Peter is still going as strong as ever so hopefully I’ve at least a couple of years left in me.

Photo from RQYS

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